20 fascinating celebrity facts we’ve learned from Who Do You Think You Are

From matchmakers and jam jars to European royalty, murder and bigamy, WDYTYA has revealed a lot about the ancestors of these famous faces...


As BBC1’s hit genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are? returns to our screens – with Sherlock’s Una Stubb’s as the first face to go under the microscope – we look back at the fascinating facts the programme has uncovered so far…


– Artist Tracey Emin is descended from gypsies who travelled Britian’s countryside.

– Interiors guru Laurence Llewelyn Bowen’s great-great-grandfather was a sea captain who abandoned his ship and forged naval records to go in search of Australian gold.

– Jodie Kidd’s great-great-great-grandfather’s brother tried to kill him over a land dispute, before setting fire to their house and killing himself and their other brother.

– Vic Reeves’ grandfather is believed to be a bigamist. He married twice but there is no proof that he divorced his first wife before marrying Reeve’s grandmother…

– As well as being descended from slaves, some of Ainsley Harriott’s ancestors were in fact white slave owners.

– Esther Rantzen’s great-grandfather accidentally shot and killed the family’s parlour maid.

– Nigella Lawson’s grandfather Felix was involved in the liberating of Camp Belsen during WW2.

– The family of Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson invented jam jars.

– Robert Lindsay’s great-great-grandparents were both bigamists. AND this great-grandfather fathered 17 children by 3 women.

– Bill Oddie’s great-grandfather met his end after tripping into a vat of boiling brine.

– Sherlock’s Martin Freeman’s great-grandfather was a blind church organist who had 21 children by three wives. In 1894 he vanished, abandoning his second wife and nine kids, too…

– Alex Kingston’s great-grandmother owned a brothel in Westminster.

– William Roache’s great-grandfather was a phrenologist – someone who felt the bumps on people’s heads to determine their personalities.

– British actor Rupert Penry-Jones has Indian ancestors.

– Strictly host Bruce Forsyth’s paternal great-grandfather had families both sides of the Altantic – and he abandoned them both.

– Sarah Jessica Parker’s family were first generation settlers in America. Her relatives also had a run in with the Salem Witch Trials.

– Actress Brooke Sheilds is descended from European royalty, most notably Louis XIV of France.

– Rupert Evertt’s grandfather was raised as an inmate at a centre for destitute boys in Kent.

– Jeremy Irons is related to one of the first ever policemen. He was dismissed for being drunk and abandoning his post and then arrested for being part of a Chartist plot and thrown into Newgate Gaol for 18 months.

– A relative of Barbara Windsor was involved in the match girls’ strike of 1888, one of the first significant strikes in England’s industrial history.


Who Do You Think You Are? starts tonight at 9:00pm on BBC1.